I was saddened to hear of the death of former Bradford City goalkeeper Peter Downsborough last week who was a stalwart of the team in the mid/late 1970s. He represented his home town club, Halifax Town before joining Swindon Town where he earned fame as a member of that club’s Football League Cup winning side in 1969.
He made his debut for City in December, 1973 having signed on a free transfer from Swindon, returning home to his Halifax roots. (Photo below shows him in the City team in the second half of the 1973/74 season.) Aged 30 it was arguable that he was in the twilight of his career yet during the next six seasons he was virtually ever present, making 225 appearances for the Paraders before eventually retiring through injury. The scarf is from his first full season at the club in 1974/75.
He was a popular team member with supporters and considered both reliable and consistent. At a time when the club had a relatively low turnover of players he was a mainstay of the team along with the likes of Ian Cooper, Joe Cooke and Ces Podd. An abiding memory of Peter Downsborough was that he was always cheerful and relaxed, clearly enjoying the opportunity to be a professional player.
His experience proved invaluable at Valley Parade and he deserves considerable credit for the team’s FA Cup run in 1975/76, not least for his role helping the club achieve a giant-killing at Norwich and preventing the Canaries from scoring an equaliser in a memorable 2-1 victory. In 1976/77 he was a member of the promotion winning side and was considered something of a talisman with his ability to save penalties. Downsborough’s technique was to step to one side of the goal inviting the penalty taker to aim towards the wider gap.
Arguably he compensated for shortcomings in the side but could not prevent relegation from the third tier in 1977/78. One of the highlights of that season was an away win a Swindon where Downsborough defied the home strikeforce to secure the points in an emotional return to the County Ground.
Eventually he lost his place to Steve Smith and retired at the end of the 1978/79 season although remained as cover during the 1979/80 season when the club narrowly missed out on promotion. His testimonial in May, 1980 was against Huddersfield Town who were (successful) promotion rivals that year. Sadly he could not participate in the game because of injury.
I met Peter Downsborough in Halifax in around 1987 where he was working as a handiman. Having been a childhood hero I was completely in awe of him. I disovered him to be an incredibly modest and warm individual, keen to talk about his time at Valley Parade and share what were obviously fond memories. I shook his hand and was taken aback at the size, maybe another reason for his prowess as a keeper.
Tribute pre kick off, Bradford City v Swindon Town on 5th October, 2019